World Trade Organization Director-General Pascal Lamy, in his report to the General Council on Wednesday said he will stress to ministers meeting informally in Geneva that "we are under severe pressure of time" in the negotiations.
He said the ministers must build on last week's momentum "to allow us to advance on all issues across the board."
In his comments, Lamy says the United States provided a "solid contribution" on the domestic support pillar and injected new momentum to reaching a world trade deal. "However, on the market access pillar, despite new proposals tabled by the G10, EC, US, G33 and G20, I said that position were still too far apart and I stressed that members will need to approximate their positions on the level of ambition needed in this pillar before negotiations on numbers can commence," Lamy says.
Ministers from leading countries are in Geneva this week continuing talks in preparation for the full ministerial meeting slated for Hong Kong in mid-December.
He added that "it is essential that the development aspect of agriculture negotiations be kept at the center stage, as it is for the round as a whole."
"But Hong Kong is only a stop-over before we land in our final destination end of 2006," Lamy says. "To get there and starting January 2006 we would need to go from the general formula to specific commitments."
Work still remains after Hong Kong. Lamy outlines the following:
- First, and before each country starts drafting its own list of detailed commitments, we need to agree on a format that all countries will follow; this would take us to the end of January
- Second, during around 3 months, each country will draft schedules of commitments on the basis of the formulae agreed in HK
- During this period there will continue to be bilateral negotiations among members, as well as broader negotiations on a number of leftovers from Hong Kong, including in the rules area
- The following 2 to 3 months will go into verifying the draft schedules produced
- And a further 3 months into legal drafting
"This means a total of 10 months in the best case scenario. Just 2 months of margin of manoeuvre which is very thin if we consider the similar steps to be taken in parallel in areas such as non-agricultural market access, services, rules ... not to mention the limited capacities in many developing countries," Lamy says.